‘Hey stranger – going to that horse sale today?’
This question popped up on my FB messages early Friday morning. It was the same day as the auction for the Fairplay horses that were being held down in Salida. I had, in fact, considered going to the sale even though my husband had strictly forbade it. I understood his position on the matter, we have a lot of mouths to feed as it is. And I have a hard enough time working the two horses we already have when summer farm chores are in full swing. But when I saw this message pop up on my screen, when I considered my options of acting or not acting…I immediately knew I would be hauling the trailer down to Salida and possibly returning with more mouths to feed whether it made fiscal sense or not.
Earlier in the month, 34 horses were seized from a ranch in Fairplay, CO. They had been fending for themselves throughout the winter in South Park’s harsh climate. By the time they were seized, a handful of mares and foals had declined beyond the point of return and were humanely euthanized. What remained was a sizeable herd of 29 horses needing immediate rescue from the worst possible fate: slaughter.
The woman who sent me the message on FB is no stranger. Her name is Sharon. She is a social media companion, a blogging buddy, a conscientious woman farmer from half a continent away. We correspond through messages regarding each of our small, diverse, woman-powered farms. We offer each other advice, encouragement, and support in our endeavors. So when she messaged me about the Fairplay horses and said ‘I think there’s a horse there with my name on it,’ I knew I would do anything to help my friend. “I think there’s a horse there with my name on it and I feel pretty sure you could tell which one it is just by looking…” I had a feeling she was right.
After finishing up the farm chores, the kids and I headed down to Salida to see the horses before the auction. When we pulled up to the corrals I warned the kids that the horses we were about to see were in desperate need of love and care. That they wouldn’t be the prettiest horses and possibly not even the nicest, but that they still needed someone to take them home and look after them so they could be well loved and safe. They agreed to help me find the right horse and to be patient through what was to be a long process.
When we walked down the aisle through the middle of the pens, we saw an endless line of starved, ravaged horses. Some were better off than others, some had huge gashes in their foreheads, some had lost their babies to the harsh conditions they endured. There were yearlings and colts, geldings and mares, and pairs of fresh foals with their weary, ragged mothers. The only thing that made it bearable was the amount of people walking the aisle, oozing with love and support for these tired, worn horses. When we approached the pen with the mares and their foals, I warned the children to not get too close as the moms might be protective of their little ones. And as the words came out of my mouth, a filly and her mom came up to us. The kids watched the filly walk by and were immediately drawn to the mama. She gently dropped her head and let them rub their little hands all over her face and I immediately knew she was the one.
As we packed in to the crowded auction house, I felt nervous and excited for what was about to come. We watched them bring the horses through one by one, most of them nervous and excited by the buzzing atmosphere. People were working hard to ensure that the horses went to good homes. At one point, the kill buyer was heard saying, “Forget it, they are bidding to high…” When the mare and filly came into the pen, #0108, I started off the bidding. There was a short back and forth with another party, but I quickly won out and the bidding was closed. We had done it, we had rescued a horse and her foal. After the bidding for all of the horses was done and we saw that they were all going to good homes or rescue organizations, we went to settle the bill and arrange for a pickup the following morning. I am so thankful that the auction house was willing to hold them over for the night because the air was thick with nerves and jitters as the handlers worked each of the horses onto the trailers that would escort them home. Home. An unfamiliar concept to almost every horse on that lot.
One more night, I thought to myself…one more night until we can bring them home and ensure that they never want for anything ever again.
To be continued….